British artist Albert Henry Collings was an extremely prolific portrait painter. His highly realistic and emotionally evocative style saw him cultivate a successful career.
Portraiture was incredibly popular amongst those of the upper classes in early 20th-Century Britain, a sure way to show prestige and wealth. Collings would paint lords and ladies and even royalty. He was commissioned to paint the Duke of Wales and King George VI upon his coronation. The self-made rising classes also sought his services to increase their reputation. A painting of actress Marjorie Villis demonstrates Collings’ unwavering ability to capture the spirit of his sitters.
Collings seems to have had a personal fascination with the female figure, cultivating a large collection of nudes and female portraits throughout his life. These images of female beauty transcend the formality of his portraits to demonstrate mood and emotion in a looser, more romantic style. Women gaze wonderingly, slick slips of silk falling from their shoulders as they seemingly appear caught out by the painter catching them in moments of contemplation.
There is something ethereal and yet incredibly human about the subjects he creates.
Collings had originally begun his career as a lithographic artist. However, it seems in the following years a burgeoning interest in portrait painting was born. Significantly, about the time Collings began producing painted works he was living in London with two other portrait artists, Sidney W White and Maynard Brown. Perhaps friendship with these two men cultivated a passion for portraiture. The change of focus certainly paid off as Collings saw himself elected to the Royal Society of British Artists. He would also exhibit regularly and with success. On a trip to Paris, he earnt medals from the acclaimed artistic salons.
Collings’ artistic roots dug very deep. His father had been a heraldic painter and his grandfather was a renowned animal painter. Collings’ brother, Ernest, would continue his father’s legacy, becoming a heraldic painter, as would his son. Collings was not the only painter in his family with royal ties. His brother’s son, Percy Vere Collings (1893-1974), became a heraldic painter to George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II. Clearly, artistic talent was abound.
However, Collings trod his own path in portraiture, going beyond what his family were doing. This bold move was rewarded handsomely and his work still hangs in numerous galleries and National Trust properties across Britain.
Born in London.
Became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists.
Awarded a gold medal at the Salon des Artistes Français, Paris.
Became a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.
Awarded a bronze medal at the Salon des Artistes Français, Paris.
Commissioned to paint the coronation painting of King Edward VII for ‘Illustrated London News.’
Died in Buxton, Derbyshire.